Windy Ending

The Ravens defense played well enough to win despite playing with their backs to the wall for most of the night. 

Let’s review:

  • Martindale was aggressive in his use of the 4-CB dime versus both 10 and 11 personnel and it did not cost the Ravens in terms of big runs vs 11 in particular.
  • The 4-CB dime was effective vs the pass and the Ravens held the Bills to 4.8 YPP overall.
  • The Ravens did not get burned using excessive numbers in the pass rush with just 33% of rushing 5+ and 4.5 YPP allowed on those plays.  Allen’s success vs the blitz had been a topic of discussion entering the game.
  • The Ravens did not give up a play of more than 21 yards.
  • Excluding kneels, the Bills rushed for just 37 yards on 12 carries (3.1 YPC) oncluding just 3 carries for 8 yards by the dangerous Allen.
  • The Bills had just 1 drive of more than 38 yards (as compared to 4 for the Ravens).
  • The defense held the Bills to 4 of 13 conversions on 3rd down.
  • The Ravens outsnapped the Bills 73-55 for the game.

It was a disappointing end to the season, but rather than dwell on the loss, it’s worth noting some excellent defensive performances:

Star Treatment

LJ Fort

  • (Q1, 6:55):  On 2nd/10, he moved up quickly to tackle WR John Brown PR4 (4 + 0) [4].
  • (Q2, 14:41):  He beat the block from C Mitch Morse on the screen right to tackle RB Devin Singletary PR2 (-3 + 5) [4].
  • (Q2, 13:56):  On 3rd/8, he took a good angle to force QB Allen OOB RR4 prior to the missed field goal.
  • (Q2, 10:24): After a late flush, he delivered a QH to Allen who threw to WR Brown PR10 (10 + 0) [5] on the right boundary.
  • (Q2, 2:27): On 2nd/7, he made the initial contact to twist TE Dawson Knox PM4 (2 + 2) [3] which was cleaned up by Jimmy Smith.
  • (Q3, 14:51): He was sealed by LT Dion Dawkins on Singletary’s RL9.
  • (Q3, 13:38): He leapt in the face of Allen who floated the ball over his head to TE Knox for PL14 (-1 + 15) [1] to convert 3rd/2.
  • (Q4, 14:14):  He brought unblocked pressure off the OLS as Allen threw PR4 [5] to WR Brown.
  • (Q4, 12:44):  With Williams late off the field on 3rd/7, Fort waited for him to clear then bolted on to play an edge role.  Allen threw to WR Stefon Diggs PL14 (9 + 5) [1].
  • (Q4, 6:28):  He penetrated through the left A-gap to tackle RB Singletary RM-1 with Madubuike.

Fort played 25 snaps that quick tackles on passes, good angles to the ball, and pressure as a pass rusher.  He had a good year with playing time lost to 3 younger players (Queen, Board, and Harrison), none of whom played as well.  

DeShon Elliott

  • (Q1, 6:32):  On 3rd/6, he had tight bracket coverage of WR Diggs with Peters 54 yards [5] overthrown.
  • (Q2, 9:41):  With ATS, he and Humphrey bracketed WR Gabriel Davis 30 yards [5] overthrown.
  • (Q3, 10:59):  QB Allen kept read option RL6, Elliott came from secondary with good angle to push OOB.
  • (Q4, 9:22): On 3rd/11, Allen threw for WR Brown 42 yards [2] in endzone where Averett and Elliott had him tightly bracketed.

This game proved the best example all season of Elliott’s ability to play a rangy FS role and contribute to brackets QBs like to avoid.

Calais Campbell

  • (Q1, 7:02):  He bulled LG Ike Boettger to flush Allen right where he threw the ball away.
  • (Q1, 6:32):  He beat a double team from C Morse and RB Singletary for pressure as Allen threw incomplete deep right.
  • (Q2, 13:56): On 3rd/8, he flushed Allen right with Bowser where he was pushed OOB by Fort for RR4.
  • (Q2, 1:19):  On 3rd/4, Allen’s pass tipped off his helmet as he leapt for a drive-ending PD.
  • (Q3, 10:20):  He beat C Morse left for pressure as Allen threw incomplete for WR Diggs.
  • (Q3, 9:36):  On 1st/Goal he bulled TE Lee Smith for pressure as Allen threw incomplete to WR Davis in endzone covered by Humphrey.

Calais will be back in 2021 and at age 35 it appears he will still be a central figure and leader on the defense.

Goal Line Misalignment

The Bills scored their only offensive TD on a WR screen to Diggs run from a bunch formation with only 2 defenders opposite 3 receivers.  On the other side of the formation, Peters was on the edge of the LoS, outside TE Knox and both Clark and Elliott were behind him on that side.  It’s not clear who should have been on that side, but it’s typical that each of 3 WRs are covered by a CB when in a nickel alignment vs 11 personnel.

Clark made a motion prior to the camera’s change to the angle below, but the overload right does not seem planned.


Note: all snap totals exclude penalties resulting in no play, kneels, spikes, and specials team plays resulting in a run or pass.  As such, they will be lower than other published totals.

The Bills ran 51 such snaps.

Base (5): The Ravens used their base 3-4 defense with 2 ILB and 2 OLB primarily versus 12 and 21 personnel.  The Ravens played their first snap of base defense on 1st and goal from the 3 (Q3, 9:36) before playing 4 more such snaps on the last 2 Bills drives.  5 plays, 4 yards, 0.8 YPP.

Jumbo Nickel (2): Martindale used an extra lineman in place of an ILB on the last 2 plays of the first quarter.  These personnel groupings are intended to provide stout run defense while maintaining a nickel secondary against 11 personnel.  2 plays, 11 yards, 5.5 YPP.

Standard Nickel (23): The standard nickel includes 2 down linemen, 2 OLB, and 2 ILB.  Martindale again used it as a response to 11 personnel on early downs.  The Bills used predominantly 11 personnel, so this was the most frequently used Ravens package.  23 plays, 117 yards, 5.1 YPP, 1 sack.

Racecar Nickel (4): This package normally includes 1 DL, 1 ILB, and 4 OLBs with a standard nickel secondary.  Against the Bills, these included 1 snap of 4-CB nickel versus 10 personnel on which Elliott was removed for Tramon Williams.  Each of the standard deployments resulted in a drive-ending play, including Judon’s strip sack.  However, the 4-CB nickel resulted in a 20-yard conversion of 2nd and 16 to Diggs, trailed by Williams (Q3, 12:23).  Chris Board was again used as the only ILB in this package (proxy dimeback).  4 plays, 8 yards, 2.0 YPP, 1 sack.

4-CB Dime (17): The Ravens did not activate Jayron Kearse, so they used a 4-CB dime versus 10 and some 11 personnel groups.  17 plays, 85 yards, 5.0 YPP.

Pass Rush

Martindale used vanilla scheme with outstanding results vs the Bills pass game.

For the game, Allen had ATS on 14/39 drop backs (36%) which is slightly above the season average for the Ravens.

Summarizing by number of pass rushers:

3: 1 play, 6 yards

4: 25 plays, 123 yards, 4.9 YPP, 1 sack

5: 10 plays, 68 yards, 6.8 YPP

6+: 3 plays, -9 yards, -3.0 YPP, 1 sack

Total: 39 plays, 188 yards, 4.8 YPP, 2 sacks

The Ravens rushed 5+ on 33% of drop backs on which the Bills averaged 4.5 YPP.

Martindale used just 8 individual blitzes (.21 per pass play) from off the LoS spread over 7 plays.  That is similar to the last 2 games, which also had little blitzing.  The Ravens generated just 1 sack and no other pressure on the 7 plays on which they blitzed from off the LoS.

The Ravens stunted only 4 times despite the infrequent blitzing and Allen’s long pocket time.  Those 4 plays resulted in 3 pressures, but no hits or sacks.    

On 4 occasions they dropped 2+ from the LoS to cover.  That is a low rate (10%) for the 2020 Ravens.

Of 39 drop backs, only 3 were deceptive rushes as I define it by incorporating 2 or more of the above elements.  Those did not include any pressures (1 ATS, 2 BOQ).

Matthew Judon had contributions to 5 pressures, including the initial pressure on McPhee’s sack (Q3, 13:07).  He also had a drive-ending sack of his own (Q2, 9:12).  Calais Campbell also had 5 solo pressures including a pass batted down off his helmet (see Star Treatment).

Defensive MVPs

  1. LJ Fort
  2. DeShon Elliott
  3. Calais Campbell
  4. Matthew Judon

Honorable mention to Marlon Humphrey and Chuck Clark on a defense that did the job in a tough loss.